It was another almost-doesn't-count finish on Tuesday night (Dec. 17) at the FedExForum as the Memphis Grizzlies fell to the Los Angeles Lakers 96-92.
The loss was the fourth in a row for the reeling Grizzlies.
Entering the contest, the two teams had similar records (Grizzlies 10-13, Lakers 11-13) and plenty of injuries. Memphis played without starting point guard Mike Conley (thigh), All-Star center Marc Gasol (knee) and forward Quincy Pondexter (foot). The Lakers were missing point guards Steve Nash (back), Steve Blake (elbow) and Jordan Farmar (hamstring).
Although the Lakers had injuries of their own, they took note of a Grizz team trying to make a go of it without major playmakers.
"Mike's a great point guard and obviously we know what Marc can do," said Lakers guard Kobe Bryant. "Those two guys (Conley and Gasol) were badly, badly missed."
Bryant, filling in as the Lakers point guard, scored 21 points in 32 minutes, marking the most minutes played and one of his highest scoring games since returning from a torn Achilles tendon.
Former Grizz and current Lakers center Pau Gasol said he told his brother (Marc Gasol_ to "just be patient."
"He (Marc Gasol) hasn't really been out for this long because of an injury," Gasol said. "He is energetic, antsy and active. He needs to be patient. Not playing is hard for him because he wants to be out there with his team and playing. It's tough when you are out and hurt and your team struggles at the same time. So, hopefully he will be back whenever the time is right for him so he can help the team get back on track."
Nick Young came off the L.A. bench with 18 points.
"They're a different team obviously without their main two players, players that they need," Young said. "It sucks for them but we needed the win."
Zach Randolph led the Grizzlies with 18 points and 16 rebounds. Tony Allen scored 16 points and racked seven rebounds. Jarryd Bayless, starting for Conley, scored 13 points, tying Jon Leuer's point total off the bench.
"We are just trying to move the ball and dribble it less," Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger said of playing without Conley. "We want to move it and try to get it into Zach Randolph."
The Grizzlies had another slow start but picked up the pace in the fourth quarter.
Mike Miller hit a three-pointer to bring the Grizzlies within three (43-40) with 5:52 left in the half. By halftime the Lakers were up by five (52-47), with Bryant's 14 points leading all scorers.
The fourth quarter began tied 67-67. Randolph hit a lay-up and put the Grizzlies up by two. Young scored a jumper to knot another tie. Los Angeles went on a 15-4 run early in the period, which led to an 11-point lead. Memphis closed the gap, cutting the lead to three points (88-85). Bryant hit a long three-pointer with 2:39 on the clock, giving his team a six-point advantage. The Grizzlies got no closer.
"They hit shots, they got threes," Randolph said. "We didn't get stops when we needed to. That was the game."
NOTE: The Grizzlies will face the Mavericks in Dallas tonight (Dec. 18).